Bob Doyel – Florida Politics

A day cashing campaign checks helps Dennis Baxley swamp foe in SD 12 race

With a Democratic challenger now picking up a little momentum in his fundraising, Republican state Sen. Dennis Baxley spent a day last month cashing scores of $1,000 checks from political action committees for his re-election fund in Senate District 12.

Baxley, of Ocala, reported that in March his campaign brought in $47,250. All of it was recorded on March 30, and all of it came in big checks from political action committees, businesses, and lobbyists, including 44 checks for the maximum $1,000 and another six for $500 apiece.

That pushed Baxley’s re-election campaign up to $152,350 collected, with about $112,250 left in the bank going into April.

Meanwhile Democratic challenger Gary McKechnie had his first significant month of fundraising, but it was a modest collection compared with Baxley’s one-day haul. McKechnie, a motorcycle-riding travel writer from Mount Dora, reported raising $13,256 in 102 checks in March. That brought his campaign total to $21,638, with about $20,000 of that in the bank on April 1.

Senate District 12, which includes part of Lake County and a big swath of north-central Florida, was just about the only Central Florida Senate district where candidates had much campaign finance activity in March.

Democrat Bob Doyel was an exception. He reported bringing in $20,882, including a $7,000 check from himself, in his bid to unseat Republican state Sen. Kelli Stargel in Senate District 22, which includes parts of Lake and Polk counties. Doyel entered April having raised $64,881, and with $49,255 in the bank.

Stargel raised just $1,033 in March, but has raised $146,733 overall, and entered April with almost $104,000 left. New in the Democratic field for that seat, former state Rep. Ricardo Rangel of Auburndale reported raising $2,075, and spending $108.

In Senate District 14 on the Space Coast, Democratic challenger Melissa Martin of Cocoa reported raising $6,369, giving her campaign a total of $24,416 in contributions, and about $21,400 left in the bank. Republican state Sen. Dorothy Hukill of Port Orange didn’t raise any money in March. But her campaign already had raised $120,650, and entered April with about $84,000 left in the bank.

Looking ahead to the 2020 elections, Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur of Sanford didn’t raise any money for his bid to be elected in Senate District 9 in Seminole County, but he has a campaign that already had raised $237,454, and it entered April with $144,000 left in the bank. His Democratic opponent, Fred Ashby, has not really raised any money.

Also looking ahead to the 2020 elections, Democratic state Sens. Randolph Bracy of Orange County’s Senate District 11, Linda Stewart of Orange County’s Senate District 13, and Victor Torres of Orange and Osceola counties’ Senate District 15 didn’t have any campaign finance activity to speak of in March. None of them has more than $25,000 in their re-election accounts at this point, but none has an opponent yet either.

Florida Democrats look to expand number of state Senate seats in play

It’s been nearly 25 years since a Democrat presided over the Florida Senate, but if the plans of party leaders and operatives come together, the president’s gavel could be theirs as soon as November.

The Florida Democratic Party and the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, the recently-established campaign arm of the Senate Democrats, are aggressively working to reshape the map of seats in play this election cycle.

According to multiple sources, including several Democratic state senators, as well as senior staff at the FDP and the FDLCC, the party is:

— Hoping to persuade former state Rep. Amanda Murphy to run for the open seat in Senate District 16, once held by Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala, who resigned in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal. Currently, former state Rep. Ed Hooper is running for the Pinellas-based district against a long-shot Democratic opponent.

— Actively encouraging outgoing state Rep. Janet Cruz to enter the race for SD 18, where she would go up against Republican incumbent Dana Young.

— Expecting trial lawyer Carrie Pilon to challenge incumbent Sen. Jeff Brandes in SD 24, a seat that’s historically flipped back and forth between the parties.

— Investing a higher level of resources than first expected in the campaigns of Kayser Enneking and Bob Doyel, two first-time candidates challenging Republican incumbents Keith Perry and Kelli Stargel, respectively.

— Counting on Alex Penelas, the former mayor of Miami-Dade County, to step up and run for SD 36, where Republican Rene Garcia is term-limited. State Rep. Manny Diaz has already declared for the seat and, in fact, just raised more than $50,000 at his first fundraiser.

Currently, the Florida Senate has 23 Republicans and 15 Democrats, although Lori Berman‘s special election victory is a foregone conclusion, so it’s really 23-16.

That means Republicans hold a seven-seat advantage heading into the 2018 cycle. If the Democrats protect all of their incumbents (currently none are engaged in particularly competitive re-elections) and win five of the seven targets listed above — an enormous, almost herculean task — Sen. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville will serve as president of the Senate in 2018-20.

Of course, it’s easy to draw targets on a map. Having candidates actually file for the seats and win their races are other matters altogether.

There’s also the issue of money.

Florida Democrats have been traditionally hamstrung by a decided lack of financial resources, while their Republican counterparts in the Senate are flush with campaign cash, both in the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee’s fund and in the individual accounts of several Senators.

Republicans have other advantages at their disposal. First of all, most are incumbents and can use the power of their offices to reach voters. And despite what some in the traditional media might have you believe, Florida’s Republican lawmakers are actually held in good standing by most voters, with 52 percent of Floridians giving them the thumbs-upaccording to a recent poll from the University of North Florida.

There’s also the reality that most of the Republicans being targeted by the Democrats are off to big head-starts over their prospective Democratic challengers.

“We have excellent candidates who have strong support from their communities and have the resources and on-the-ground teams needed to win,” said Senate President-designate Bill Galvano, who leads his party’s campaign efforts. “The Democrats can focus on recruiting candidates. We are focusing on preparing our already-set slate of candidates for victory.”

Young has banked away nearly a million dollars for her re-election. Brandes has a large, near-permanent campaign staff that really hasn’t stopped working since he was first elected in 2010. Hooper has decades of experience representing Pinellas voters, whereas Murphy would be a new face to many SD 16 constituents. There isn’t a weekend when Diaz isn’t walking door-to-door in this district (Don’t believe me? Just check his Twitter account).

Despite these and other disadvantages, the Democrats are taking the first steps of putting the pieces on the chessboard.

Murphy confirms that interest in her challenging Hooper is spiking. She said her phone was “blowing up” Tuesday as word of her prospective candidacy spread. While she acknowledges that “in today’s climate it would be crazy not to think about running for office,” she also is concerned about what a return to public life might do to her professional career: “I have clients, a team and regulations that demand my time.”

Florida Politics reported Tuesday night that Cruz, currently running for the Hillsborough County Commission, has spoken with Senate Democratic leadership and party donors about challenging Young. Several sources say she has contacted Young’s current Democratic challenger Bob Buesing to discuss clearing the field for her.

Florida Politics recently acquired the internal working documents of the nascent campaign of Pilon, who could launch her campaign as soon as next week.

Penelas, last in office 14 years ago, confirmed Wednesday morning that he is considering a run and that he will likely make a decision next week. A lot depends on what his family — Penelas has a young daughter — thinks of the decision, he says.

With a potential abundance of riches, at least in terms of candidates, the question remains whether the Democrats will have the money to play in as many as seven or eight competitive seats.

One potential source of the kind of money needed to compete in all of these seats is national money, like that from former Attorney General Eric Holder‘s National Democratic Redistricting Committee. It’s attracted to the possibility of flipping chambers, not just winning seats.

“If there was ever a cycle when Democrats could make huge gains in a chamber, including possible flipping one, it’s this year, and it’s in the Florida Senate,” said Christian Ulvert, a prominent Democratic political consultant.

Bob Doyel snags 20 endorsements in bid to unseat Kelli Stargel

Democrat Bob Doyel on Monday announced a long list of endorsements for his campaign against incumbent Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel in Senate District 22.

Doyel, a retired circuit court judge, listed 13 endorsements from current and former elected officials in the bulk announcement.

The seven current elected officials: Kissimmee Democratic Rep. John Cortes, Haines City Commissioner Anne Huffman, Lake Hamilton Vice Mayor Mike Kehoe, Dundee Mayor Sam Pennant, newly elected Winter Haven City Commissioner JP Powell, Polk County School Board member Billy Townsend and Haines City Vice Mayor Morris West.

Also on the list were former Winter Haven Sen. Rick Dantzler, former Winter Haven City Commissioner Tom Freijo, former Lakeland City Commissioner Jim Malless, recently retired Public Defender Marion Moorman, former Polk County Commissioner Jean Reed and former theatre director Norm Small.

“Bob Doyel advocates for home rule and public schools,” Freijo said in the press release. “I’ve known him for many years and I’m confident he’ll get things done for the people in our district.”

Also included in the announcement were community leaders Doris Moore Bailey, Ruth Ann Eaddy, Martin Negron, Larry Hardaway, John Perez, Larry Rankin, and Pastor Clifton E. Dollison.

“Receiving so much help from the community – from friends, teachers, former colleagues, and from everyday, concerned citizens – is a deeply moving and humbling experience. I’m running to be the best public servant I can be to the people of Polk and Lake counties, not to the special interests being served in Tallahassee,” Doyel said.

Doyel is running against former state Rep. Ricardo Rangel in the Democratic Primary for the seat. Also challenging Stargel is no-party candidate Ryan Morales.

Through February, Doyel had raised about $51,000 for his campaign and had $39,192 in the bank. His total includes $7,500 in loans.

Rangel, who filed March 13, and Morales, who filed March 16, have yet to filed their first campaign finance reports.

Stargel, who is running for her final term, had brought in $145,700 for her campaign account as of Feb. 28 and had $112,817 on hand. She also has a political committee, Limited Govt for a Stronger Florida Political Committee, with about $106,500 on hand.

SD 22 has a Republican lean despite Democrats having a 10,000-voter edge in registrations.

SD 22 would have voted plus-2 for Mitt Romney in 2012 and plus-11 for Gov. Rick Scott in the 2010 gubernatorial race. In the 2016 race Stargel won re-election over Democrat Debra Wright by 7 points while President Donald Trump carried the district by nearly the same margin.

Jason Brodeur continues to lead Central Florida state Senate candidates in fundraising

Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur continued to lead all Central Florida state candidates in campaign fundraising in December, bringing in more than $21,000 for his official, 2020 campaign for the Florida Senate, and another $59,000 for his unofficial Friends of Jason Brodeur political committee.

Brodeur’s hauls bring his official fund to about $217,000 raised, with $141,000 left in the bank at the end of December; and Friends of Jason Brodeur to nearly $1.20 million raised and approximately $353,500 in the bank.

Brodeur, who is finishing a final term representing Florida’s House District 28, isn’t running for anything until 2020 when Senate District 9 becomes available. He does have an opponent, Frederick Ashby, an Oviedo Democrat who did not report any campaign finance activity in December. Ashby’s state senate campaign had about $300 in it at the end of the year.

Republican state Sen. Dennis Baxley of Ocala raised $16,000 in December, bringing his re-election bid’s fundraising total to $87,850 for Florida Senate District 12. His campaign also spent about $9,100 in December, so he finished the year with nearly $62,404 in his campaign fund.

Baxley has two opponents. Republican primary challenger Kaesha Gray of Ocala lent her campaign $1,000 in December. Democrat Gary McKechnie of Mount Dora raised $850 in December. Both finished the year with around $1,000 left.

Republican state Sen. Kelli Stargel of Lakeland reported raising $8,000 in December toward her re-election bid in Senate District 22. That brought her total raised to about $132,000 and left her with about $105,000 in the bank at the end of December.

Her opponent Democratic challenger Bob Doyel of Winter Garden reported raising $1,722 in December. He’s raised $12,262 total and finished the year with about $7,000 in the bank.

In Senate District 14, Republican state Sen. Dorothy Hukill of Port Orange reported raising $7,100, putting the total raised for her re-election effort to $106,200. She finished December with about $74,000 in the bank.

Her opponent Democrat Melissa Martin of Cocoa reported raising $1,464 in December. She has raised $12,673 total and finished the year with just over $11,000 left in the bank.

Among races that, like Brodeur’s still are more than two years away, Democratic state Sen. Randolph Bracy of Ocoee, reported raising $7,500 in December, leaving him with about $13,000 in the bank for his re-election bid in Senate District 11. Democratic state Sen. Linda Stewart of Orlando reported raising $2,060 in December, leaving her with about $2,000 in the bank in her bid for re-election in Senate District 13. Democratic state Sen. Victor Torres of Orlando reported raising $5,250 in December, leaving him with about $26,700 in his re-election bid in Senate District 15. None of them has an opponent yet.

Bill Rufty: House District 41 candidates going for the money

RuftySam Killebrew, Republican candidate for Florida House District 41, has raised a campaign war chest double that of Democratic candidate Bob Doyel, who nevertheless raised more than any Democrat running for the district in 16 years.

The battle for the open seat is the only competitive race among the seven legislative seats in Polk County that have elections.

In the latest campaign finance reporting period, Sept. 3 through Sept. 16, Killebrew reported raising $7,400 to bring his total contributions during the primary and general election campaigns to $135,499.

He has loaned himself $51,000. By Sept. 16, he had spent $109,498.

During the same two-week reporting period, Doyel collected $5,280 in campaign contributions, bringing his campaign total to $60,885 and loaning himself $10,000. He had spent $38,616.

The annual salary for a legislator is $29,697.

District 41 includes the eastern portion of Polk County. Latest voter registration numbers show the district with 41,357 Democrats, or 38 percent of the 107,900 registered voters in the district. Registered Republicans number 36,715, or 34 percent of the electorate.

Another 29,828 list themselves as no party affiliation or members of third parties. They make up 28 percent of the registered voters in District 41; those are the voters both candidates are spending money to attract in the final six weeks.

Killebrew has spent more than $32,000 for campaign consulting and $19,000 in campaign mail-outs.

Doyel has paid around $5,000 for consulting and $12,000 for campaign management. While Killebrew was heavy on campaign mailers, Doyel was more focused on campaign signs, according to their expenditure sheets.

 

Bill Rufty: A political rarity in HD 41 – Republican, Democrat agree

RuftyRepublicans and Democrats agreeing on a major issue – It seldom (if ever) happens lately in national politics.

But on a state level, Republican Sam Killebrew and Democrat Bob Doyel, competing for Florida House District 41, agreed on the critical issue of education in the state of Florida.

There are too many tests and perhaps not geared to finding children’s progress so much as to grade teachers or schools, they said in front of a Polk County Tiger Bay luncheon in Bartow Wednesday.

Both men, of course, support the state giving the vacant agriculture office building, Nora Mayo Hall, located in the district, to the city of Winter Haven.

District 41 covers the eastern portion of Polk County. It is currently held by Rep. John Wood, a Winter Haven Republican, who will have reached his eight-year term limit on Election Day.

Killebrew and Doyel each won their respective party’s primary, Aug. 30. No Democrat has won the seat since 1998 or any other legislative seat in the county for that matter.

The Democratic Party, not known for vigorous active campaigning for its candidates, is “pulling out the stops” for Doyel, a retired circuit court judge, because of the changing face of the district. More people who work in Osceola or Orange counties are among those moving into the northeast portion of the county.

But Killebrew is well-known for his contributions to the Republican Party both financial and through his candidate recruiting. A retired contractor, he completed several projects in the district.

They (state education officials) have tied teachers hands by all of this excessive testing, said Killebrew, whose wife teaches in the Polk County school system. His wife has helped him understand what changes are needed in Florida, he said.

“She says we need to get the federal government out and have mostly the state involved,” he said. “But we need to do testing by counties not one state standard test because there are differences,” he said.

Doyel gave a similar opinion on education and testing.

“We need to take a close look at testing. If that is what we call an education standard then we are in real trouble,” Doyel said

“The tests don’t take into account if the child is hungry or couldn’t sleep the night before because of poverty…or homelessness,” he said.

There were plenty of differences between the two men on other issues.

Unlike many Tiger Bay Clubs where members rise from the audience, sometimes in a confrontational manner that wastes time, Polk club members submit their questions in writing.

Asked for their opinion on legislation likely to come before the Legislation in 2017 that would allow people to openly carry a gun, Doyel said he is “adamantly opposed.”

Killebrew said 45 states allow open carry permits. Open carry permits are stricter and require stiffer checks he said.

Both men strongly disagree on a proposed medical marijuana amendment proposed for the state constitution.

“It should not be in the state constitution. This one is bad but not as bad as the one two years ago (which was defeated),” Killebrew said.

‘’It still is not handed out by pharmacies, but private shops and a caregiver can buy for up to five people,” he said.

Doyel said he, too, was opposed to the issue being a constitutional amendment such as the one outlawing the penning of pregnant pigs which was passed some years ago.

“I support it, but not just on medical marijuana,” Doyel said. “As former law professor, I am concerned about teenagers who get caught with a very small amount of marijuana and have their futures destroyed with prosecution.

“I think for those small cases there should be a citation,” he said.

On expansion of Medicaid coverage Killebrew is opposed and Doyel supports it.

With a question asking each candidate’s position on abortion, Killebrew said: “I am pro-life.”

Doyel said, “I wish it were that simple, but that runs counter to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.”

From a political junkie’s viewpoint, both candidates were almost too nice to one another.

Both wisely called for additional funding for citrus greening. Polk County dropped from first in production of citrus in the state to third and the main agriculture research center is located in District 41.

Bill Rufty: Polk becoming a two-Party county?

Polk County will likely never return to the Democratic bastion that was home to four U.S. senators, three governors, and four presidents of the Florida Senate.

But from Tuesday’s primaries and the fielding of candidates for the Nov. 8 general elections, Polk Democrats are slowly learning to make the now-GOP bastion a two-party county again.

There was a big Democratic Primary in eastern Polk County for Florida’s 9th Congressional District, but not one of the four candidates were from Polk.

However, for the first time in a decade, there was a Democratic Primary for Florida House District 41, which is fully contained within the county’s borders.

As the I-4 corridor begins to turn Democratic in performance, eastern Polk County appears to be following the trend. But the western side, which includes Lakeland, Bartow and Mulberry, is still the Republican stronghold it has been since 1996.

The highest level race in the county and much of Central Florida was a congressional race where a Democrat is almost certain to win a general election run after court-ordered redistricting.

State Sen. Darren Soto’s win over former Alan Grayson aide Susannah Randolph, Grayson’s wife Dr. Dena Grayson, and former Osceola County Democratic Party Chair Valleri Crabtree can be credited to the significant margin in Osceola County, a Democratic stronghold among the three counties making up the district. He barely won the Orange County section and came in third in the Polk County section of his district.

Democrats in Polk County are hoping to win a Florida House seat in Polk County for the first time since 1998.

Former Circuit Court Judge Bob Doyel handily won the Democratic Party’s nomination over Nicholas Garcia in the primary and now faces former contractor and Republican fundraiser Sam Killebrew, a formidable Republican activist.

Killebrew won the GOP nod by a narrow margin over former 2nd District Court of Appeal Judge Charles Davis.

It was Davis’ first run for a partisan political office and, although running as a Republican, he failed to adhere to what has become a tenant of the GOP: get the absentee voters first.

Davis won at the polls Tuesday, but longtime political planner and activist Killebrew won the race with the mail-in and early vote ballots.

The anticipated overhaul of the sometimes intransigent and stagnant Polk County School Board wound up about 50-50. After a scandal involving the then-superintendent and a top aide and the board’s slowness to do anything, many believed there would be tight contests for the four school board seats up for election this year.

One board member drew no opposition, while another, perhaps in part sensing public anger, did not seek re-election. That left two seats with incumbents and an open seat for the nonpartisan election in Tuesday’s primary.

Incumbent Lori Cunningham received more than 50 percent of the vote and was returned for her fourth four-year term.

But the other incumbent, Hunt Berryman, was a very distant second to the first-time candidate and school board critic Billy Townsend in the three-way race. Still, Townsend must now contend with Berryman in a runoff.

Becky Troutman, wife of former Florida House member and potential 2018 Cabinet candidate Baxter Troutman, led by 9,000 votes in the four-way race for the open school board seat, but did not get the required 50 percent of the vote. She will face Sara Beth Reynolds in the general election.

The most surprising win from a vote-margin standpoint was the re-election of Polk County Judge Susan Flood Barberdisciplined for an alleged romantic relationship with her bailiff.

She had been the target of some Republican leaders, who released photos of her looking at state attorney’s evidence against her while a deposition was in recess. Barber apparently didn’t realize the room’s security cameras were on, they said. It is a nonpartisan race, but so what? Parties don’t care when trying to elect one of their own.

But Barber was returned to the bench, winning by a margin of 5,500 votes over challenger Carson Bassett, due in part to a last-minute Facebook post from a well-known local attorney who endorsed her.

The results of Tuesday’s Primary elections in Polk County:

Polk Democratic Primary 9th Congressional District

Susannah Randolph – 4,791/34.67 percent

Dena Grayson – 4,534/32.81 percent

Darren Soto – 3,526/25.52 percent

Valleri Crabtree – 968/7 percent

Democratic Primary Entire 9th Congressional District

Darren Soto – 14,496/36.26 percent

Susannah Randolph – 11,267/28.18 percent     

Dena Grayson – 11,122/27.82 percent

Valleri Crabtree – 3,093/7.74 percent

Polk Republican Primary 9th Congressional District

Wayne Liebnitzky – 9,662/66.33 percent

Wanda Rentas – 4,904/33.67 percent

Republican Primary Entire 9th Congressional District

Wayne Liebnitzky – 22,725/67.56 percent

Wanda Rentas – 10,911/32.44 percent

Polk Republican Primary Florida House District 41

Sam Killebrew – 5,134/51.26 percent

Charles Davis – 4,881/48.74 percent

Polk Democratic Primary Florida House District 41

Bob Doyel – 5,360/64.95 percent

Nicolas Garcia  2,892/35.05 percent

Polk County Commission (Universal Ballot)

Bill Braswell – 40,889/66.21 percent

J.C. Martin – 20,868/33.79 percent

Polk County Judge

Susan Barber – 36,026/54.13 percent

Carson Bassett – 30,530/45.87 percent

Polk County School Board District 1

Billy Townsend (Runoff) – 27,978/42.64 percent

Hunt Berryman (Runoff) – 21,500/32.77 percent

Ed Shoemaker – 16,135/24.59 percent

Polk County School Board District 2

Lori Cunningham (Elected)  33,391/51.99 percent

Ronnie L. Clark – 17,202/26.78 percent

Kevin J. Kitto – 7,000/10.90 percent

Tim James – 6,634/10.33 percent

Polk County School Board District 4

Becky Troutman (Runoff) – 25,105/38.26 percent

Sara Beth Reynolds (Runoff) – 16,466/25.10 percent

Ed Smith – 16,085/24.52 percent

Rebekah Ricks – 7,956 /12.13 percent

 

Endorsement Watch: Florida Medical Association, Florida Retail Federation, SEIU Florida and others issue endorsements

There are just a few weeks until the election, and organizations across the state are rolling out endorsements for state and federal candidates.

Several organizations — the Florida Medical Association, the Florida Retail Federation, and the Service Employees International Union Florida — issued endorsements.

Rebecca Negron has received the backing of James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family and Family Talk.

“It is my pleasure to be among the many solid conservatives who are supporting Rebecca Negron’s candidacy for the United States House of Representatives for Florida’s 18th Congressional District,” said Dobson in his endorsement letter. “As a private individual, I am honored to endorse Rebecca Negron for Congress, and pray that her election will be the start of a new generation of leaders who will return this nation to the constitutional principles upon which it was founded.”

Negron faces Republicans Carl Domino, Mark Freeman, Rick Kozell, Brian Mast, and Noelle Nikpour in the Aug. 30 primary.

“I am honored to have the prayers and endorsement of Dr. James Dobson,” said Negron. “I appreciate Dr. Dobson’s influence on a generation of families, including my own. I support his focus on traditional family values and the sanctity of human life. I also thank him for his kind words.”

GREY2K USA has endorsed Dana Young in Senate District 18.

“On behalf of our more than 100,000 supporters, we are happy to endorse your campaign for Florida Senate,” said Carey M. Theil, executive director of GREY2K USA. “We look forward to working with you in Tallahassee on greyhound protection issues. Together, I know we can make a real difference for the dogs!”

Young faces Democrat Bob Buesing in the November general election.

“Some of the most important groups are founded to fight for those, such as greyhounds, who cannot protect themselves,” said Young in a statement. “I am pleased to have received an endorsement from GREY2K USA, who has continually fought to end the practice of greyhound racing and enact stronger laws against it. I look forward to the opportunity to work with GREY2K USA to ensure the fair and proper treatment of greyhounds.”

The Florida Nurses Association Political Action Committee has endorsed Matt Hudson in Senate District 28.

“We ask that you continue to be open to hearing the ideas and potential solutions put forward by others who share our hopes and dreams for a better future for our children,” wrote Bonnie Sklaren, chairwoman of the Florida Nurses Association Political Action Committee.

Hudson faces Republican Kathleen Passidomo in the Aug. 30 primary.

“Our nurses are an invaluable part of our community and the entire state of Florida, working for the betterment and health of all Floridians,” said Hudson in a statement. “Throughout my service in the Florida House, I was proud to be an advocate on behalf of our nurses, which I’m committed to continuing if elected to serve in the Senate.”

Service Employees International Union Florida has endorsed Rena Frazier in House District 59.

“SEIU Florida is proud to endorse Rena Frazier because we know that she will be a champion for working families in her community,” said Monica Russo, the president of SEIU Florida. “Rena understands the importance of fair wages and of creating good-paying jobs locally. We look forward to working with her in the Florida Legislature.”

Frazier faces Democrat Naze Sahebzamani in the Aug. 30 primary.

“I am thrilled to have the endorsement of SEIU Florida,” said Frazier. “I look forward to being a voice in Tallahassee for our working families in House District 59 and across the state of Florida.”

SEIU Florida also endorsed Sean Shaw in House District 61.

“Sean is a candidate Floridians can trust to fight for a $15 minimum wage, improve our education system, and increase healthcare access,” said Russo in a statement. “Our members are proud to enthusiastically endorse him and are encouraging others to help us elect Sean Shaw for State House.”

Shaw faces Democrats Dianna “Ms. Dee” Hart and Walter L. Smith II in the Aug. 30 primary.

“We share a strong dedication to protecting Florida workers and improving the lives of all Floridians,” said Shaw in a statement. “I thank them and their members for their support and look forward to fighting for them in Tallahassee.”

The Florida Medical Association has endorsed Brian Hodgers in House District 52.

“Brian Hodgers is a pro-medicine candidate that we are proud to support,” said Dr. Chris Pittman, president of the Florida Medical Association PAC. “Through working in insurance, he has a keen understanding of the interface between physicians and insurance companies, which will help navigate future issues shared between the two.”

Hodgers faces Republican Thad Altman, Monique Miller and Robert “Fritz” VanVolkenburgh in the Aug. 30 primary.

“We’re encouraged and honored by the Florida Medical Association’s endorsement,” said Hodgers in a statement. “We look forward to working with Florida’s physicians and patients to promote public health, ensure the highest standards of medical practice, and enhance the quality and availability of health care.”

The FMA PAC also endorsed Rep. John Cortes in his House District 3 re-election bid.

“As a member of the Health Innovation Subcommittee, he has a unique understanding of the current healthcare issues affecting our state today,” said Pittman in a statement. “The FMA looks forward to our continued collaboration with him to help physicians practice medicine in Florida.”

Cortes faces the winner of the Aug. 30 Democratic primary in November.

“I am truly thankful and honored to receive the endorsement of Florida doctors,” said Cortes in a statement. “I look forward to continuing to work with these hardworking professionals to improve the quality of healthcare delivery in Florida.”

The FMA PAC also threw its support behind Sam Killebrew in House District 41.

“As a long-time businessman in Polk County, Mr. Killebrew understands the demands of running a business today,” said Pittman. “Many physicians in private practice run business as well and we hope to collaborate on these issues with him in the Florida House.”

Killebrew faces Republican Bob Doyel in the Aug. 30 primary.

“Our communities are very fortunate to have these dedicated professionals looking out for our well-being on a daily basis,” said Killebrew. “I look forward to working with Florida’s doctors as they strive to enhance the quality and availability of health care for our citizens.”

The Florida Retail Federation has endorsed Rebecca Smith in House District 60.

“Rebecca is a proven local business and community leader whose success in launching her own successful small business shows that her input and experience will be a tremendous addition to the Florida House,” said Randy Miller, the president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation. “We look forward to Rebecca bringing her knowledge and expertise to help pass laws and reduce regulations to help support Florida businesses.”

Smith faces Republican Jackie Toledo in the Aug. 30 primary.

 

Ed Smith leaves Florida House race for school board

Polk County Commissioner Ed Smith, a Lake Alfred Republican, has pulled out of the Republican Primary for Florida House District 41, and has entered the nonpartisan race for Polk County School Board against incumbent Dick Mullenax.

Smith said his decision to switch to run for a local office is based “solidly on the health of my wife.”

The change in races leaves two candidates in the Republican Primary for the legislative seat and to woo Smith’s large bloc of supporters gained during his more than 15 years in elected office in the eastern part of the county.

District 41 is being left vacant by Rep. John Wood, a Winter Haven Republican, who is term limited.

Retired contractor and Republican fundraiser Sam Killebrew and former 2nd District Court of Appeals Judge Charles Davis Jr. are seeking their party’s nomination for the seat. Both men are from Winter Haven.

The winner of the GOP contest will face the winner of the Democratic Primary between Nicolas Garcia of Haines City and former Circuit Judge Bob Doyel.

Smith, 74, is a 28-year Navy veteran. He had two terms on the Lake Alfred City Commission and was twice the city’s mayor. He also has been chairman of the Polk County Commission.

He has a master’s degree in education from Old Dominion University.

After his Navy career, Smith worked for the Polk School District 16 years as a classroom teacher, dean of students at Lake Gibson Middle School, and then in the same job at Auburndale High School, where he also was a head track coach.

“I do have experience in education and I still want to serve,” Smith said.

His wife is in remission from cancer but has recently learned she has macular degeneration and is in the early stages of dementia.

“The very idea of going to Tallahassee for 60 days and then all the weeks of committee hearings and 12-hour days is totally out of the question,” he said. “I think Dick is a great guy, but I have educational experience and I have ideas that can help.”

One other incumbent board member is being opposed. Hunt Berryman is being opposed by Franklin “Ed” Shoemaker.

At the last reporting date, Smith had $35,045 in contributions to his legislative campaign and had not spent any.

Under state law, said Barbara Osthoff, an assistant Polk County supervisor of elections, he must notify all contributors to his campaign that he is switching races and offer them a choice of leaving their contributions in his campaign fund or receiving their money back on a pro rata basis. Contributors have 30 days from the time of being notified to request a refund. After that timeline, the money will remain in the campaign fund.

The school board has been under fire recently for its slow handling of an incident with former Superintendent Kathryn LeRoy, who resigned Friday. She received $119,000 in severance and $113,518 in annuity payments.

After complaints about her treatment of some employees, she was accused of sexual harassment by one male staff member. She was exonerated from that charge, but some criticized some of the board members for their foot-dragging on the issue.

More criticism has occurred over the settlement LeRoy received for resigning shortly before the board was to meet, likely to fire her.

And while both challengers entered their respective races before the Friday controversy over LeRoy, the incidents and board members’ reactions just might draw other challengers.

“People tend not to think about government until it becomes inefficient,” said Bruce Anderson, professor of political science at Florida Southern College in Lakeland. “Most of the problems come small. Then greater inefficiencies are uncovered and you have reform-minded people who think their ideas might help.”

Bill Rufty: A 4th candidate for HD 41

A third Republican and likely to be the fourth candidate overall seeking the vacant Florida House District 41 next year filed his qualification papers Tuesday.

Retired 2nd District Court of Appeal Judge Charlie Davis filed to run as a Republican for the east Polk County House seat that will be left vacant by Rep. John Wood, a Winter Haven Republican, in 2016 when he reaches his eight-year term limit.

Davis, 67, spent 32 years on the bench as a Polk County judge, a 10th Judicial Circuit judge and was appointed by then-Gov. Jeb Bush in 1999 to the appellate court he retired from in February.

Davis, a Winter Haven native, received a bachelor’s degree from Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tenn., in history in 1970 and master’s degree in history from the University of Cincinnati in 1971. After two years of teaching, he studied for his law degree at the University of Florida, graduating in 1975.

In 1976, he was elected to the Winter Haven City Commission and elected mayor in 1978. He was elected county judge in 1982 and circuit judge in 1984.

House District 41 is proving to be very popular among would-be candidates because it will be the only open Polk County-anchored legislative seat next year.

Already Republican fundraiser and activist Sam Killebrew and Polk County Commissioner Ed Smith have filed to run in a Republican primary next year before being joined by Davis Tuesday.

Retired Circuit Judge Bob Doyel, a Democrat, has said he also will run for the seat.

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